The Many Types of PCPs

The Many Types of Primary Care Doctors: Choosing The Right One For You

Your primary care physician is really a partner in your health. He or she is the first person you see when you’re sick, the one who keeps an eye on how you’re doing year after year and who you go to with questions about everything from a sore throat to sleep problems. But under the umbrella of primary care physicians, there are different kinds of providers to choose from. Here are some of the options available to you, so you can find the right one for you and your family’s needs.  Blue Cross’ Find a Doctor tool can help you find a network doctor.

  • Pediatricians: These doctors specialize in care for babies, kids and teens. They can provide a range of care services, including physical exams, diagnosing and treating your child’s illnesses and answering questions about growth and development. A pediatrician can be your child’s primary care physician, but many don’t cover the care of adults, so you might need to find a different doctor for yourself.
  • Family practitioners: A family doctor is qualified to care for patients all the way from infancy through adulthood. This is a great choice for busy families looking for a one-stop shop when it comes to their doctor. Family medicine doctors are trained to provide care to the family as a whole, helping to focus on specific genetic, hereditary and other medical issues that might affect each member.
  • Internists: While your family doctor can treat children and adults, internists treat older adolescents and adults. Their training is highly specialized in adult health, including diseases and chronic conditions. They can help you with everything from small injuries like sprains to more serious medical conditions like high cholesterol. Internal medicine doctors often have an additional focus in areas including cancer and heart disease.
  • Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA):  Nurse practitioners and physician assistants can train across a variety of specialties. They are able to diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions or injuries for patients of all ages. You may see NPs and PAs at your doctor’s office and in some practices they may be your PCP.
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists: These doctors specialize in women’s health including pregnancy, childbirth and the female reproductive system. Even though they have specialized training, an obstetrician or gynecologist may be able to serve as your primary care provider. While you may need to see a different doctor when you get sick, some women choose an OB/GYN to be their primary care physician.
  • Geriatricians: Geriatricians specialize in caring for older adults and are trained in the aging process. While internists or family practitioners can care for elderly patients, a geriatric physician is a good choice for those who have age-related health issues like Alzheimer’s, dementia and managing many chronic conditions at once.

If you want to select or change your primary care physician, log in to your account at bcbsm.com, call the number on the back of your ID card or visit our Find a Doctor tool.

Learn more about primary care and your other choices when it’s not an emergency at bcbsm.com/findcare.

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Photo credit: Blurry Me

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